On 16 September 2021, #Merky Books is publishing its first children’s book celebrating over 50 iconic British figures chosen by Stormzy and the #Merky Books team. Only 7% of children’s books published in the UK between 2017-2019* featured characters of colour so Superheroes is set to break the mould on representation, with over 50 characters from underrepresented communities selected to inspire, encourage and empower children. It follows the release of Stormzy’s single Superheroes last year, which was a tribute to real life superheros
Superheroes involved in the project include athlete Dina Asher-Smith, comedian Mo Gilligan, writer Candice Carty-Williams, baker Liam Charles, model Jourdan Dunn, scientist Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, writer-director Reggie Yates, former footballer Ian Wright and many more from across the fields of art, activism, sport, film, TV, music, science, fatefood, fashion and literature.
Each superhero has their inspirational story and superpower told by Sophia Thakur, an award-winning performance poet, author and songwriter. The book is illustrated by 21-year-old Denzell Dankwah who is studying a BA in Illustration at the University of Gloucestershire and reached out to the #Merky Books team on Instagram with his comic book illustrations.
Footballer Rinsola Babajide – a winger for Liverpool in the FA’s Women’s Championship – is featured in the book and says: “It’s such an honour to be part of this project and I’m so proud to help inspire the younger generation … I’m hoping to reach mainly those who look like me and have doubt in their mind about being able to make it professional in whatever they love, whether that be sports or in the performing arts industry.”
Rachael Corson, Co-Founding Managing Director of the award-winning hair product company Afrocenchix, says: “I want kids to look at what Joycelyn and I have achieved, two young Black girls that grew up poor in London, and know they can do anything they set their minds to and go after.
I want others to fulfill their potential and live their best lives knowing that the ‘heroes’ in this book have worked hard to pave the way for their greatness.”
Sophia Thakur says: “The earliest seeds that are planted often influence the rest of the garden.
If from a young age, we only really meet blackness from a position of weakness, of slavery and shootings … stereotypes and racist media … as children, we don’t get an opportunity to develop a healthy and confident outlook on what it means to be black.
It was important to work on this book to plant a new seed of celebration. Of black excellence into our young minds who will hopefully bloom into their very own superheroes. Confident and powerful.”
Denzell Dankwah says, “Working on this project has been an exciting experience as I grew up with a love for superheroes and cartoons. Since my illustrations are heavily influenced by comic books, this was a great opportunity to portray such huge figures and role models as heroes for young readers to look up to. This is a dream come true as I’ve always wanted to illustrate a book and I’m grateful to have collaborated with Sophia and the amazing team at #Merky Books.”
The full list of people profiled in Superheroes includes:
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE
Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE
Dr Clifford V. Johnson
Shaun and Craig McAnuff
Prof. Frank Chinegwundoh MBE
George The Poet
Ian Wright MBE
Ikram Abdi Omar
Dr Mark Richards
The Triple Cripples